Article in the Sandy Springs Neighbor Newspaper

The following article was written in the Sandy Springs Neighbor Newspaper promoting the Ava in Wonderland Event.

Ava in Wonderland to fund cancer research

by Noreen Lewis Cochran
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Saturday, the world of make-believe combines with the hopes of parents as an event called Ava in Wonderland works to eliminate childhood cancer.

Honoring the late Ava Lynn Sentell, who died of a malignant heart tumor last year at the age of 4, the evening benefits the Sandy Springs-based non-profit Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.

“They were a great help and support to Ava and the family during this most difficult time,” said her father, Casey Sentell of Alpharetta, who connected with the organization through its spokesman, Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann.

Executive Director Dean Crowe said the nonprofit has a specific goal.

“[It] raises funds specifically for childhood cancer research in order to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects,” she said in a statement.

Sentell, who grew up in Sandy Springs, also praised Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston in DeKalb County, where Ava was treated. “The nurses and doctors are amazing there and are truly special people on this earth,” he said. However, the tumor attacked her heart so quickly, Ava succumbed four months after her diagnosis.

“She truly touched many lives during this ordeal,” Sentell said. “Even through the struggles of this horrible disease, she kept up an incredible spirit and truly wanted to give to others.”

It was her spirit, fearlessness and sense of adventure that inspired family and friends Gillian Onan, Erin Noyes and Lana Eller to create a way for Ava to give back to her community. “After she passed away on October 27, our friends asked us if we still wanted to go forward with the event and we said, “Yes, definitely.” There is such a need to raise awareness of childhood cancer, any small part that we can all do will help,” Sentell said.

Ava’s grandmother, Donna Walker of Sandy Springs, and her aunt, Theresa Walker MacPherson of Cumming, helped make and sell pink bracelets inscribed Ava’s Angels, which Sentell said is now their battle cry.

“The name stuck and now we are using it to further Ava’s fight so other children and families do not have to suffer the same fate,” he said.

His family includes wife Christina and son Dylan, 3, who misses his sister. “When we ask him if he knows where his ‘sissy’ is, he says she is in heaven with Jesus,” Sentell said. “Lately he has started to ask when she is coming home.”